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Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus sums up the Sox season to date.

As you look at the Red Sox through 37 games, what stands out is just how little stands out. There’s the performance of Okajima, the low home-run rates allowed by the rotation, and perhaps some over-their-heads work by Varitek and Lowell. There are more disappointments here—Drew, Ramirez, Crisp, Julio Lugo, Matsuzaka to some people—than surprises. That bodes well, because you can say that this is a 26-11 team that, unlike most, hasn’t had everything break right in the season’s first quarter.

The key word is “everything.” The Sox have been fortunate to be relatively healthy and Wake’s knuckler has been fluttering like it is 1995. It is unlikely that both will continue throughout the season. Thankfully, the Sox have enough organizational depth everywhere in the field, besides Catcher, to withstand most DL stints. On the mound is another story.

If Beckett goes on the DL or is ineffective due to his skin problem, Wake returns to planet earth and Lester does not pick up the slack - as his past peripheral performance would project – then it will expose the lack of depth in the pen.

In fact, other than Papelbon and Okajima, Sox relievers appear to be doing it with smoke and mirrors: 27 walks and 34 strikeouts in 64 innings. The back end of the bullpen is going to have to improve, or be improved, as the year goes on.

And even the dynamic duo has issues. Papelbon has his own health problem. Plus, his control has been off so far yielding more than 4 BB/9. Okajima is anything but a sure thing going forward. He has been frustrating hitters with his modest stuff and a funky head-down delivery. Okajima’s recipe will only fool major league hitters for so long. On the bright side, most hitters might not see him more than once or twice this season. It could be “Papelbon and Pray” or “Only Okajima or I’m Out” come the summer.

Another power reliever - Mike Timlin is not that guy any longer - would give the Sox more margin for error on the mound. If the reliever prospect trio - Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen and Bryce Cox - were pitching as expected, then finding a power reliever would not be as much of a concern. The trade market will likely be thin (Gagne, Dotel?) and overvalued yet again in July. Hopefully, another power reliever will not be necessary.


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